UKGFF 2015: Above All Else Review


Over the next few weeks, FILM IN WORDS will be taking a special look at the 2015 UK Green film festival, showcasing and reviewing this year’s stellar lineup of thematically potent, visually arresting and environmentally focused films. We hope you can come along for the ride…


Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter


David Daniels spent twenty-eight years defying gravity as a gymnast before transitioning into the life of a professional stuntman. After a series of near fatal near misses, the daredevil would retreat from his high-octane lifestyle and start anew beneath a luscious forest canopy in East Texas. It took David three years to build his own home from the ground up, but just as his plans of crafting his own isolated escape had taken shape, they were already under threat from a giant, hulking corporate beast driven by the hunt for fossil fuels.

Energy “developers”, TransCanada, intended to build a vast pipeline spanning six US states, as a means of transporting Tar Sands Oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar Sands Oil is one the least legitimate, and most environmentally unethical forms of fossil fuels, as it requires numerous costly and environmentally harmful processes to reach the point at which it can actually be used as fuel – not to mention a history of devastating areas to which it is introduced.

Pressured, deceived and intimidated by TransCanada to relinquish their rights and land, David and fellow residents of the area through which the pipeline would dissect, rallied together to oppose the construction, an act which would produce a groundswell not of syrupy liquid gold, but nationwide activism.

Above All Else is a uniquely personal story told from the perspective of the isolated individuals whose way of life is directly threatened by America’s thirst for home-grown oil. It is a documentary that constantly presents a climate war that pits a domestic energy boom against the stability of the global climate, an incendiary nationwide issue that draws in several elements to David’s plight, including Barack Obama and several activist groups.

As the film moves closer to the last-ditch efforts that David and fellow protesters must take, primarily the organisation of a tree-sit in and the construction of a defiant “tree village” in the path of the pipeline, the film finds its core focus, honing in on the relentless and often fearless attitudes and actions of those unwilling to bend and let TransCanada break down the picturesque landscape.

John Fiege’s documentary is an unnerving and alarming experience filled with both futility and fighting spirit. Its attractive visuals lend an ever deeper sense of injustice at the prospective loss of these wild, untamed environments. Its slow pacing is a stark contrast to the familiar physical clashes of protest pictures. A long and arduous battle is presented, fought with court orders, lawsuits and media clashes, highlighting the true burden and grind of David’s years of struggle to retain what is essentially his own.

In isolating a global fight within the confines of one man’s Texan wilderness, Above All Else becomes an enlightening expose into the ruthless practices of major corporations and the true cost of fuelling our future on a planet which may soon not have one.


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